KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Late last month, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released its annual county health rankings. In Kansas, the best and the worst in one category are right next to each other.
Johnson County ranked number one in the state in both health outcomes, which measures length and quality of life, and health factors. Those are community conditions that can be changed, like health behaviors, education and access to clinical care.
Wyandotte County ranked 102 for outcomes, and 104, last in the state, in health factors. The data only looked at 104 of the 105 counties in Kansas.
Getting medicine for your family isn’t always as simple as taking your doctor’s prescription to a pharmacy. If you're uninsured, underinsured or don't speak English, the process might not be so simple. But a new charitable pharmacy is coming to Wyandotte County this summer, with a goal of removing that uncertainty.
It’s called Pharmacy of Grace, and board member John Yost says the words of Jesus from Matthew 25 are the inspiration.
"’When I was thirsty, you gave me drink, and when I was sick, you took care of me,’” Yost said. “And they said, ‘Master when did we do that?’ And he said, “Every time you take care of those most in need, you take care of me.’"
Caring for people, by removing limitations, will be the mission of Pharmacy of Grace. That list of limitations includes insurance.
"If you look around us, we're in an area where it's 30-40 percent uninsured," Yost said. "That limits access for prescription medication."
Rubiselda Velazquez is living with those limitations. She's taking six prescriptions for diabetes and blood pressure, at a cost of roughly $90 a month. But, that may not be enough.
"I don't think I'm taking the right medication,” Velazquez said through an interpreter. “I can't afford the medication that I really need."
The night before KSHB 41 spoke to Velazquez, she had to go to the emergency room. She says she's done that more than once.
"When I arrive, they give me IV insulin to get my blood sugar under control," Velazquez said. “It's upsetting to me, because there is a better medication for me, and I'm getting worse."
The cost of drugs may be the most obvious limitation for many people, but it's not the only one Pharmacy of Grace hopes to address.
"The biggest problem, even nationally, is that half the prescriptions, patients don't take them correctly," Yost said.
In fact, Yost says that the hospital admission rate for diabetes in Wyandotte County is almost double what it is in the rest of Kansas.
Michael Fink, who will be the pharmacist in charge, says fixing that problem was one of the main reasons he took the job.
"The focus on patient consultation is one of the highlighted points that I came away with from my interviews,” Fink said. “We didn’t talk about anything in the back of the pharmacy. It was really focused on the patient consultation suites.”
Patients will have the opportunity to have detailed consultations with the pharmacists, including with the help of a translator if necessary, in a sit-down setting. And that drastic change to a typical patient-pharmacist interaction is a difference Yost and the rest of the Pharmacy of Grace team hope will be obvious from day one.
Pharmacy of Grace is targeting a mid-July opening, and the team stresses that this will not be a place to get free medications. There will be a charge for all of their services, but they're eager to work with people on making prescription medication less intimidating.